Health

All the king’s horses…

Every time something scary happens with my health, I am forced to take a step back, and examine my treatment plan. The way we treat my disease changed significantly over the last year, since the symptoms of Behçet's Disease are not well controlled. The last few months have been quite the roller coaster ride, to say the least. I have been on chemo infusions every 3-4 weeks, and immune suppression for a year, but I still have the same swelling I started with.

When your doctor agrees treatment is not working, and it is time to try the big guns, it is kind of like a "holy shit, I was right!" moment, but it brings no joy. Instead I got extra blood work before I left that day, to make sure the drugs they wanted to try on me wouldn't kill me. I was so detached that I felt like I was floating next door to the lab. My pulse was roaring in my ears.

Normally, I am a pro at blood work, to the point where I barely even feel a butterfly. Not so much that day. I must have jerked as the phlebotomist went to remove the needle, but it's not like blown veins are not something I'm used to. (That's why my doctor suggested the power port in my chest.) I felt dizzy. The phlebotomist told me to stay in the chair while she grabbed me some juice. Typically it's not a big deal, but I guess my body was irritated about giving up nine tubes of blood before breakfast.

I tried to be a "normal" and thanked her for the juice. Two seconds later I tried to take a sip, bumped the ulcer on my face, which immediately started bleeding, and poured the mini-can of apple juice mostly down my shirt. I got a tissue, applied some pressure, tried to go crawl under a rock to die, but my partner was waiting. He sat so patiently while I tried to collect myself. I got the bleeding stopped, and used the few tissues I had left to mop up my soaked bra, and chest.

I wish in these moments I could remind myself that "normal" is a setting on the dryer, and everyone who was staring at me had their own bad days too, but the weight of my previous conversation with the doctor was heavy on my mind. They were going to get me IVIg. There was a good chance it could put me in remission, or at least quell my pain, and symptoms. I thought, "what have I got to lose?" and, "it's just another infusion," but within 24 hours of treatment, I knew I was wrong.

Most of the next two weeks were in, and out of the hospital (where I was admitted at one point), and doctor's office. It turns out the IVIg Infusion had caused aseptic meningitis. I am no stranger to headaches, I have had my share of migraines too, one lasting 9 days from elevated intracranial pressure, caused papilledema. They all paled in comparison to this pain. At one point my head, neck, back, and spine all hurt so bad I was being given intravenous dilaudid.

However, about 10-12 day after the IVIg infusion, my joints were feeling better than they had in over a year, and some of the swelling in my mouth went down too. I had to choose if I was willing to risk the pain of meningitis again in order to get that tiny window of payoff. I'm still on the mend from a hospital acquired infection, but here I go again… Chemo is this Friday, and IVIg is about two week from then. It will be two doses this time, given over two five+ hour infusions, two days in a row. I won't lie and say I'm not scared, but I'm willing to risk it once more just for the hope of a bit more time feeling "normal."

Fingers crossed!

autoimmune, Behçet's, Behcet's Disease, chemotherapy, chronic illness, Health, port, vasculitis

Coping with pre-op fears

I’ve known for the last month or so that a port was going to be necessary for me to continue infusion therapy, and stay alive. The veins in my arms are shot after a year of getting pumped full of Infliximab every four weeks. Discontinuing infusions isn’t a option if I want to keep walking, and try to ease the symptoms of Behçet’s Disease on my body. The symptoms are quite severe for me, and seem to be worsening quicker than any of us suspected.

I’ve been on a liquid/soft food diet for over a month because of the swelling, and ulcers at the roof of my mouth. A 50 mg taper of prednisone, and a round of antibiotics has barely had any effect, and I’m on the max dose of Infliximab (10mg/kg body weight) already. Some of the veins in my arms have collapsed, others are too heavily scarred to be of use. So a port it is…

I’m not happy about it, although I’ve been told this will make things easier, and less painful for me in the long run. I have been distracting myself every way possible, and temporarily put on medication to keep me calm while I wait, since I was in utter panic mode. I’m a complete needle phobe, but I’m able to use meditative breathing to make it through IV insertion. A port however, is too much for me to breathe through with active PTSD. So after I breathe through getting an IV at 7:30 tomorrow morning, I’m going to be put under sedation for port placement.

Maybe I’m a fraidy cat, but me-ow, so my choice, and I’m not going to feel bad about it. Behçet’s symptoms are exacerbated by stress, so it’s better for me to ask to be put under, if it is at all a choice. 

Now, I just have to make it till the morning. 

19 hours, 44 minutes, and counting…

Uncategorized

Getting “Regular” Sick While Chronically Ill

I have been battling Flu Type A (even though I got my vaccine months ago), and subsequent bronchitis for the last few weeks, all while having a flare up of my autoimmune disease. Normally, I  would have had my Remicade infusion last week, and be recovering now, but since Remicade (infliximab) is used to  suppress my immune system, on top of the Imuran (azathioprine) I take daily, I had to wait (doctor’s orders) until I was recovered. 

Not having my chemotherapy infusion on time means I am typing this slowly, and painfully with one, swollen, puffy jointed index finger. My face, and skin have open ulcers, every joint in my body is painfully inflamed, I’ve got brain fog (thankful for the update button every time my mind is chasing rabbits), and my GI system is in one of the lower levels of hell. It’s only “just begun,” so I am really glad (Sick, huh?) that my infusion is today. In fact, I really wish it was this morning, it will be about 6 hours before my IV drip starts, or even later, as the pharmacy gets backed up in the afternoon, and my IV bag can’t be mixed (@ 40K +/- per dose) until I am checked in (as it is made based upon mg, per kg of body weight, which fluctuates).

I really feel like those of us who suffer from a chronic illness should get a free pass when it comes to regular illnesses! Trust me, after the last few weeks, I know that’s impossible, no matter how many hospital protocols my family follows. It just seems remarkably unfair. 

Does anyone who has a chronic illness get where I am coming from? 

Have you battled common illnesses while on immune suppression? What helped?